Travel has never been a barrier for college students, but the Department for Transport's decision to require Transport for London (TfL) to suspend the subsidy for under 18 year olds makes it a barrier. The Association of Colleges (AoC) and colleges across London are calling on the Government to save the 16+ Oyster Card.
The Department for Transport’s reasoning that it is a London specific investment and that young people should lead the way in reducing public transport usage in the times of coronavirus. However, there are more than 160,000 young people in sixth forms and colleges across London; two thirds of college students are BAME and many students are disadvantaged educationally, socially or economically.
David Hughes, Chief Executive of the AoC, wrote in a letter to Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, “Our concern is for 16-18-year-olds who want to make the best choices for their continuing education and training. There are over 90,000 young people in school sixth forms and 78,000 in colleges in the capital, all working for their own ambitions and futures as well as to make London a more highly skilled and prosperous city.
“Every college is committed to helping to reduce the demands on the public transport system as part of their re-opening plans. This commitment includes a package of measures to stagger opening hours and to significantly reduce cohorts of students in college on any one day. Moreover, colleges are planning for a blend of on-line and face to face teaching and learning to reduce the need for use of public transport.
“93% of London college students aged 16 to 19 travelled up to 6 miles (straight line) in 2019-20 to access their college, often on complex routes. Young people choose their college for many reasons. Many young people travel further distances to college in order to take advantage of college specialisms and reputation. Others take their post-16 education as an opportunity to reinvent themselves.
“Two thirds of London college students are BAME and the majority are disadvantaged; educationally, socially or economically. Around a quarter of our young students are eligible for free school meals giving a good idea of the poverty levels. Colleges use their bursary funds to subsidise other aspects of learning, but travel has never before been a barrier to young people’s participation in further education opportunities.
“I would urge you to scrap the proposal to remove free travel for under 18s on TfL services. As a minimum we would ask that you seek to protect travel concessions afforded to young people through the 16+ Oyster card.”
Support the campaign by contacting your local MP, for example by using the Child Poverty Action Group’s form, sign the petition to keep children’s free bus passes and use #SaveThe16PlusOyster on social media.